I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re spiritual but not religious, so what’s the difference between religion and spirituality?
Spirituality is more about a one-on-one relationship with whatever a person’s concept of God is and that this relationship is personal and unique, not the same for everybody. It is more defined by personal experience, how you feel, which may be different for each individual.
Religion includes specific, well-defined concepts about who God is and for most organized religions, includes many rules about what to do and what not to do in order to get into heaven. For organized religion, it is more of a belief system or philosophy, a theology, a fixed dogma, more intellectual and from the mind than from the heart.
There are many religions all claiming to have the “truth”. This is one track on the path to finding God. This is the track of the intellect, the mind. Unfortunately, most of us have only experienced this one track because it has been the main way that most organized religions have taught us. That’s okay, but the most liberated, spiritually enlightened people have had an understanding of a second track to finding God, forming a personal relationship with him.
This is the track of the heart in quest of the love and guidance of God. This track is more about spirituality. It is more about experiencing the love of God than just understanding facts about him.
As you may have experienced, when a person thinks about something, it brings on many associated feelings. As thought always precedes feeling, this is how religion and spirituality are tied together. True religion is both, together.
To understand how thoughts and feelings in a relationship are linked, think of a special friend or a parent or loved one that you have a relationship with that feels good. Bring them into your mind and then notice how you feel. You don’t have to label how you feel, just sit there and experience them.
I believe the most important truth about how to find God is to develop a personal, one-on-one relationship with him. So how do you develop a relationship with God? The answer is simple. Go about it the same way you develop a relationship with anybody. Simply spend time with him. Talk to Father and tell him everything; share your most intimate secrets, fears, joys, and heartaches: Share everything with him. Then just sit together and experience the deep love you believe he has for you.
If you’re not so sure about how much he loves you, well, count yourself among the many as this is the stumbling block that most of us have on this planet. If you truly knew how much your Father adores you, however, it would change everything.
Our Father sees the real you and loves you as if you were his only child. He has been there with you through everything, every step of the way. God understands your actions and reactions, better than you do, so imagine what your perfect parent would say to you. Sit with him a little bit everyday and soon you will not have to pretend you are loved. You will begin to feel his loving embrace. That is how to develop a personal, one-on-one relationship with the Father.
The Urantia book teaches us many things about both religion and spirituality. “Religion is not a technique for attaining a static and blissful peace of mind…” (The Urantia Book; 100:3.1). However, “Religion can progress to that level of experience whereon it becomes an enlightened and wise technique of spiritual reaction to the universe” (The Urantia Book; 100:2.3). As for spirituality, it “becomes at once the indicator of one’s nearness to God and the measure of one’s usefulness to fellow beings” (The Urantia Book; 100:2.4).
Furthermore, “The highest religious experience is not dependent on prior acts of belief, tradition, and authority; neither is religion the offspring of sublime feelings and purely mystical emotions. It is, rather, a profoundly deep and actual experience of spiritual communion with the spirit influences resident within the human mind.” (The Urantia Book; 101:1.4).
“True religion is not a system of philosophic belief which can be reasoned out and substantiated by natural proofs, neither is it a fantastic and mystic experience of indescribable feelings of ecstasy which can be enjoyed only by the romantic devotees of mysticism… Religion is the experiencing of divinity (God) in the consciousness of a moral being of evolutionary origin; it represents true experience with eternal realities in time, the realization of spiritual satisfactions while yet in the flesh” (The Urantia Book; 100:1.1).
Jesus showed us not only a new concept of God as a loving Father but exactly how to develop a personal relationship with him. “The olden concept that God is a Deity dominated by kingly morality was upstepped by Jesus to that affectionately touching level of intimate family morality of the parent-child relationship, that which there is none more tender and beautiful in mortal experience” (The Urantia Book; 2:6.2). “In the earthly life of Jesus, religion was a living experience, a direct and personal movement from spiritual reverence to practical righteousness. The faith of Jesus bore the transcendent fruits of the divine spirit. His faith was not immature and credulous like that of a child, but in many ways it did resemble the unsuspecting trust of the child mind. Jesus trusted God much as the child trusts a parent. He had a profound confidence in the universe — just such a trust as the child has in its parental environment. Jesus’ wholehearted faith in the fundamental goodness of the universe very much resembled the child’s trust in the security of its earthly surroundings. He depended on the heavenly Father as a child leans upon its earthly parent, and his fervent faith never for one moment doubted the certainty of the heavenly Father’s overcare. He was not disturbed seriously by fears, doubts, and skepticism. Unbelief did not inhibit the free and original expression of his life. He combined the stalwart and intelligent courage of a full-grown man with the sincere and trusting optimism of a believing child. His faith grew to such heights of trust that it was devoid of fear. (The Urantia Book; 196:0.11).
True religion then combines both tracks, religion and spirituality, on the path to finding God. It is also true that “if you truly want to find God, that desire is in itself evidence that you have already found him” (Jesus, The Urantia Book, 130:8.2).
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